Author Archives: Darrell Wood

Virginia Gold Cup Highlights from May 4 Steeplechase Races at Great Meadow

Bad weather played a role in the weekend’s action, which was punctuated by rain, clouds and cool temperatures. Yet, the dreary conditions didn’t stop fans from turning out in large numbers at both the Virginia Gold Cup Races on Saturday in The Plains and Winterthur Point-to-Point outside of Wilmington, Del.

Rampoldi wins the Grade 1 Commonwealth Cup at Great Meadow on May 4th with Jamie Bargary up. This was the first Grade 1 stakes held during a Gold Cup program (Douglas Lees photo)

Nine races were on tap at Great Meadow Race Course in Virginia, highlighted by the inaugural Grade 1 $150,000 Commonwealth Cup, a handicap hurdle at 2 1/8 miles, along with the historic $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup at 4 miles, one of the most prestigious timber stakes in America. The results of the Commonwealth Cup shone a bright light on one of the sport’s rising stars and the Gold Cup celebrated yet another remarkable milestone in the incredible career of a remarkable warrior.

Terrier races kicked off festivities at Great Meadow (Douglas Lees).

There were standout performances on the human side, too. Leading NSA trainer Leslie Young had another big weekend with a combined five winners (four over jumps). Besides taking the Commonwealth Cup, Young scored with Silverton Hill’s Kelmscott in a maiden special weights hurdle and Runnymoore Racing’s Clifton Down in the Speedy Smithwick stakes at Gold Cup, and Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Fast Vision in the Winterthur Bowl allowance and Potter Group USA and Ashwell Stable’s Right Tempo in the Middletown Cup training flat contest (that doesn’t count in the standings). The wins gave the NSA’s leading trainer the past two seasons, 15 for the spring, nine more than Jack Fisher. She also has a commanding lead of more than $220,000 in earnings over the Hall of Fame conditioner.

Jockeys Bernie Dalton, Jamie Bargary, and Stephen Mulqueen also doubled at Gold Cup, while Freddie Procter doubled at Winterthur. Keri Brion had a training double at Gold Cup.

Rider Jamie Bargary & trainer Leslie Young celebrate after Rampoldi’s Grade 1 stakes win (Douglas Lees photo).

Rampoldi Plan romps in Commonwealth Cup

Coming into the race, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Rampoldi Plan had made five NSA starts after a career in England, breaking his maiden and finishing second in an allowance appearance. In the Commonwealth Cup, the five-year-old Florida-bred son of Hard Spun stalked pacesetter West Newton, took charge on the final turn, and had the lead with two fences to go. At the wire, he was two lengths clear of hard-charging Welshman, who closed stoutly from seventh. 2023 novice champion L’Imperator was third.  The winner was sent off at 13-1 at the meet, which once again offered pari-mutuel wagering. For jockey Jamie Bargary, it was his first Grade 1 score.

Schoodic scored his second Virginia Gold Cup win May 4th. The 14-year-old has also won two International Gold Cups at Great Meadow fall meets (Douglas Lees photo).

Schoodic is spectacular, again, in Gold Cup

Dolly Fisher’s 14-year-old, ridden by Graham Watters and trained by Jack Fisher, captured his fourth straight stake with a blockbuster victory over a tough Awesome Adrian in the Virginia Gold Cup stakes. The 2023 timber champion, who won his first start of the season at Middleburg two weeks ago, showed his competitive fire hasn’t diminished one bit. The ageless star and 2-1 betting choice closely stalked Bogey’s image (Teddy Davies) and overtook Nancy Reed’s Awesome Adrian, who rallied from last to take the top spot with two fences remaining, collaring the leader in deep stretch to score by 2 lengths. Bogey’s Image was far back in third.

Connections for Schoodic celebrate in the winners circle (Douglas Lees photo).

For the winner it continued a remarkable skein of 10 consecutive top-three finishes dating back three years. Overall, it was his 17th career win and elevated his bankroll to $634,606. It was also his second Virginia Gold Cup victory. In addition, Schoodic owns two wins in the race’s fall counterpart, the International Gold Cup.

Clifton Down is “speedy” in Smithwick

Another relative NSA newcomer, Runnymoore Racing’s Clifton Down showed spark when he finished a distant second to runaway winner Lightning Ridge in his stakes debut at three in the Alston Cup at Charleston last fall. After a close second to Hold Hard to begin 2024 at the Old Dominion Hounds meet in April, the Irish-bred was untouchable in the $50,000 Speedy Smithwick Memorial four-year-old stakes, romping by 10 ¼ lengths for the rider-trainer tandem of Bargary and Young. The 2-1 favorite moved up to second after the opening mile, took command on the final turn, and extended his advantage after the final fence. Layton Register’s Haint Blue (Bernie Dalton), who broke her maiden at Aiken in her NSA debut in March, was second. The aforementioned Lightning Ridge was third after leading for a mile and a half.

Speedy Smithwick Memorial winner Clifton Down leads the field over a jump (Douglas Lees photo).

Southpaw Mike, Kitten Around, Juulstone rise to the top in maiden claimers

The Gold Cup card featured a trio of $20,000 optional claiming hurdles for maidens, with jockey Stephen Mulqueen and trainer Keri Brion combining for two of them. In the second race, Joseph Fowler’s Southpaw Mike came from off the pace at 14-1 under Bernie Dalton to defeat Hurricana Farm’s Fingal (Ryan Treacy) by 4 lengths for trainer Kate Dalton. In the eighth, Upland Flats Racing, Darkhorse Racing, and The International Venture’s Kitten Around outgutted Clarke Ohrstrom’s Giantsbane (Virginia Korrell), to prevail by a half length under Mulqueen, who struck again in the finale with Christopher LaBerge and USA Steeplechase’s Juulstone. The latter came on with a flourish at the final fence to defeat Turks Head Turf’s Exuma (Dan Nevin) by a length and three-quarters.

Maiden claiming race winner Juulstone drives to the finish on My 4 (Douglas Lees photo).

Kelmscott beats back big field in maiden special weights hurdle

Silverton Hill’s flashy gray son of European Group 1 classic winner Mastercraftsman was never worse than third in the field of 10, drew even with pro-tem leader Noble Speaker on the final turn, then took charge over the final fence. But the race tightened considerably when Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s 14-1 Blue Nile, under Virginia Korrell, closed powerfully to come within 1 ¼ lengths of the winner. Paddy O’Hanlon, riding for trainer Leslie Young, earned his fourth victory of the season.

Kelmscott (in blue & green silks) with Patrick O’Hanlon up, shows the way in a maiden special weight (Douglas Lees photo).

Hold Hard makes it two for two in 2024

Rolling Tide’s Hold Hard, 7-1, gave jockey Bernie Dalton his second winner on the card following a spirited duel with Gill Johnston’s Pure Courage (Elizabeth Scully) in a $45,000 hurdle event for non-winners of two races. The margin of victory was three-quarters of a length. Pure Courage, who set the pace for a mile and a half, battled gamely but was simply outfinished by the Doug Fout-trainee, who was exiting a maiden score at the Old Dominion Hounds meet in April where he defeated, among others, Speedy Smithwick Memorial Stakes winner Clifton Down.

Maiden special weight winner Hold Hard scored in one of two maiden special weights on the Gold Cup card (Douglas Lees photo)..

Crealion is last man standing in $20,000 Steeplethon

Plenty of odd things have happened during the running of the Steeplethon over mixed obstacles at Great Meadow over the years. And on Saturday it was no different when two of the four runners went off course and the winner, Sheila Fisher and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team, missed a beacon and was subsequently disqualified. When the dust cleared, it was Armata Stables’ runner up, Crealion, trained and ridden by Tom Garner, who was declared the winner in his first NSA start following 29 in Europe.

Crealion, a French-bred eight-year-old, led most of the 3-mile contest after betting favorite Court Ruler and recent My Lady’s Manor Stakes winner Our Friend went off course midway through. From there on, Storm Team and Graham Watters tracked Crealion closely over the timber and natural brush fences and through Swan Lake. Storm Team assumed the lead two fences from home, crossing the wire 2 ½ lengths in front. But after review, stewards disqualified the winner for missing a beacon.

New Study: Virginia Equine Industry Program Has Generated $86.2 Million in Economic Impact

Benefits of Virginia-Certified Residency Program to be on Display at Upcoming Colonial Downs Summer Meet

A newly released study commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance demonstrates the significant impact of the Virginia-Certified Residency Program for thoroughbreds on Virginia’s economy.

According to the study, the program has generated an estimated economic impact of $86.2 million between 2017 – 2023. 

The program requires out-of-state thoroughbred horses to reside at least six consecutive months (prior to turning three years old) at a Virginia farm to receive a certification as a Virginia-certified thoroughbred horse. Upon completion of their residency, those horses then qualify to receive bonuses in eligible races.

“This is a significant total, especially taking into consideration that the program is still relatively new,” said Debbie Easter, President of the Virginia Equine Alliance. “The program didn’t begin until 2017, yet already is demonstrating its value.” 

Hundreds of Virginia horse farms participate in the program, receiving income from horse owners and breeders from outside of the state. 

More than 5,000 horses have participated in the Virginia-Certified Residency program since its inception. 

The large pool of Certified horses to draw from is now evident in the 2024 Colonial Downs Condition Book. Six Virginia-Restricted stakes with combined purse money of $750,000 will be offered during the summer meet in New Kent which begins July 11. The Hickory Tree and Keswick Stakes — two-year-old dirt sprints — will be held August 3 while a four-pack of Handicap events for older horses will be contested on Commonwealth Stakes Day, August 31. The Meadow Stable, Camptown, Bert Allen and Nellie Mae Cox each have a purse of $150,000. 

A total of 40 Virginia-restricted overnight races will also be offered in the first Condition Book which covers the first 16 days of a 27-day meet. Fourteen maiden special weight races, with a purse of $75,000 each, are listed along with a variety of others including six allowance races. 

Highlights of the new study include: From 2017-2023:

*The direct spending of the program was estimated at $54.5 million for the seven years from 2017 to 2023. These spending activities generated ripple (indirect plus induced) effects yielding a total economic impact of $86.2 million. 

*The program generated an estimated $1.8 million in tax revenue for the state government.

*The cumulative economic impact is 5.9 times larger than the total incentive payout, representing a strong return on investment in the program. 

The Virginia-Certified Residency Program for thoroughbreds is just one component of Virginia’s thriving horse breeding and racing industry. 

For more information on the Virginia Certified program and bonus incentives visit www.virginiahorseracing.com.

The study was commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance, the industry’s organizational body that promotes the horse racing and breeding industry throughout the state. Chmura Economics and Analytics (Chmura), a research consulting firm in Richmond, Virginia, conducted the study. 

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About Virginia Equine Alliance

The Virginia Equine Alliance is the state sanctioned organization representing horse racing throughout the state. The Alliance is a non-profit, 501(c)6 organization comprised of the Virginia Harness Horse Association, Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, Virginia Gold Cup Association and Virginia Thoroughbred Association. Virginia Equine Alliance’s primary mission is to sustain, promote an expand the horse breeding and horse racing industry in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

About Chmura Economics and Analytics

Chmura Economics and Analytics is a consultation business providing labor market software, consulting, and data, so you can make informed decisions that grow your community. Chmura’s staff consist of PhD economists, data scientists, and strategic planners who are able to guide client’s local labor market.

Colonial Downs Announces Stakes Schedule for 2024

Festival of Racing Slated for August 10; Virginia Derby Scheduled for September 7
Topped by a quartet of graded races, Colonial Downs unveiled its 2024 stakes program consisting of 27 races worth $5.7 million for the 27-day season which runs from Thursday,
July 11 through Saturday, September 7.

Colonial Downs will begin its summer thoroughbred season on July 11th.

The Colonial Downs Festival of Racing, slated for Saturday, August 10 is highlighted by the Grade 1 Arlington Million, the Grade 2 $500,000 Beverly D. and the Grade 2 $500,000 Secretariat Stakes, the traditional weekend for the renowned trio. The Million will be run at 1¼ miles, the Beverly D. will be contested at 1-3/16 miles and the Secretariat covers one mile. All three races are slated to be run over Colonial’s acclaimed Secretariat Turf Course.

Once again, the Beverly D. has been selected as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf to be held at Del Mar in California on Saturday, November 2.

The 2023 Beverly D stakes trophy.

Festival Day is being expanded for 2024 to include 4 additional stakes races: the $100,000 Petramalo Mile, a one-mile dirt race for 3-year-olds and its sister race, the $100,000 Penny Chenery at seven furlongs; the $150,000 Van Clief for 3-year-olds & up at 5½ furlongs on the turf and its distaff companion event, the $150,000 Andy Guest.

The Grade 3 $500,000 New Kent County Virginia Derby, Colonial’s longtime signature event, will be raced on closing day, Saturday, September 7. The 1-1/8 miles grass race headlines a card with $1.3 million in stakes purses including five other turf stakes: the $250,000 Virginia Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1-1/16 miles; the $150,000 Da Hoss Stakes for older horses at 5½ furlongs; the $150,000 Colonial Cup a 1½-mile marathon for 3-year-olds & up; the $125,000 Rosie’s Stakes for 2-year-olds sprinting 5 ½ furlongs; and the $125,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes for 2-year-olds over a two-turn 1-1/16 miles on turf.

Integration captured the 2023 Virginia Derby (Coady Photography)

Last year’s major stakes races at Colonial netted several notable winners: Da Hoss victor Nobals went on to capture the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita; Fev Rover, who took the Beverly D., added the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine to her already impressive resume; and Virginia Derby hero Integration later scored in the Grade 2 Hill Prince at Aqueduct. More recently, 2023 Virginia Derby runner up Program Trading captured the Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Opening weekend action includes three new turf stakes: the $125,000 Million Prep at 1-1/8 miles; $125,000 Beverly D. Prep over 1-1/16 miles; and the $125,000 Boston at one mile, which will serve as a prep for the Secretariat.

The following Saturday, July 20, a quartet of turf races for Virginia-bred or -sired older runners are on the docket: the $125,000 Brookmeade for filles and mares at 1-1/16 miles, the $125,000 Edward P. Evans at one mile, and the $125,000 Punch Line and $125,000 Tyson Gilpin/Glenn Petty both at 5½ furlongs with the latter of the pair restricted to fillies and mares.

Galilei prevails in the 2023 Brookmeade Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

A pair of 2-year-old races for Virginia-restricted runners – the $150,000 Hickory Tree and its sister race the $150,000 Keswick – headline the Saturday, August 3 program. Both races have been lengthened to 5½ furlongs on the dirt.

Commonwealth Champions Day is scheduled for Saturday, August 31 and is highlighted by a quintet of turf races saluting Virgina runners: the $125,000 Jamestown is for Virginia-bred or -sired 2-year-olds going 5½ furlongs while the remaining four events are for Virginia-restricted horses – the $150,000 Meadow Stable for older horses at 5½ furlongs and its female companion race the $150,000 Camptown; and the $150,000 Bert Allen and its filly and mare counterpart, the $150,000 Nellie Fox, both at 1-1/16 miles.

Additionally, there will be two $100,000 stakes races for fillies and mares presented by the National Steeplechase Association, the Randolph D. Rouse on Thursday, August 8 and the Life’s Illusion on Thursday, September 5.

Condition books and stall applications are available online at www.colonialdowns.com under the horsemen’s tab. Stall applications are due Tuesday, May 21.

About Colonial Downs
Colonial Downs Racetrack, in New Kent, Virginia, hosts live thoroughbred racing on two nationally renowned surfaces – the Secretariat Turf Course, the widest turf course in North America at 180 feet wide and on a 1 1/4-mile dirt track. The Colonial Downs Group, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums® in Richmond, Hampton, New Kent, Vinton, Emporia, and Dumfries which offer innovative historic horseracing (HHR) gaming technology and full card simulcasting as well as Rosie’s Game Room in Collinsville, which features a limited selection of some of their best HHR titles plus full card simulcasting. The 2024 live racing season, which consists of 27 days from July 11 through September 7, is highlighted by the Grade 1 Arlington Million, Grade 2 Beverly D. and Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes on August 10 and the Grade 3 New Kent County Virginia Derby on September 7. The Beverly D. is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” race.

Where to Bet the Kentucky Derby in Virginia on Saturday May 4

The biggest horse racing event of the year is this coming Saturday May 4 — and for the first time ever, there are 15 different places that Virginians can wager the $5 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve! 

The “Run for the Roses” will go to post at 6:57 PM on May 4.

Fans can bet the “Run for the Roses” at any of the seven Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in New Kent, Richmond, Hampton, Dumfries, Collinsville, Vinton and Emporia, at the VA-Horseplay OTBs inside Breakers Sports Grille in Henrico & Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake, at the Virginia Gold Cup Steeplechase Races in The Plains, at the Shenandoah Downs Harness Races in Woodstock, and online via four partner sites: Twinspires.comTVG.comXpressbet.com & NYRABets.com. 

The Buckets OTB in Chesapeake is conveniently located in the Great Bridge area, in the Battlefield Shopping Plaza.

There is much more to wager in addition to the Derby. Saturday features an additional seven graded stakes including the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (Gr. 1), the $1,000,000 Churchill Downs Stakes (Gr. 1), $1,000,000 Derby City Distaff (Gr. 1), $750,000 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Gr. 2), $600,000 Pat Day Mile (Gr. 2), $600,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (Gr. 2) and $600,000 American Turf Stakes (Gr. 2). The $200,000 Knicks Go Overnight Stakes will complement the eight graded events. First post is 10:30 AM and the Derby itself goes off at 6:57 PM.

2023 Virginia Derby winner Integration will leave from post 2 in the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) in Race 11 — the race just prior to the Kentucky Derby (Coady Photography).

The day prior — Friday May 3 — is the $1,500,000 Kentucky Oaks (Gr. 1) card. In addition to the feature for 3-year-old fillies, six other graded stakes are programmed including the $1,000,000 La Troienne Stakes (Gr. 1), $750,000 Alysheba Stakes (Gr. 2), $600,000 Eight Belles Stakes (Gr. 2), $600,000 Edgewood Stakes (Gr. 2, $400,000 Modesty Stakes (Gr. 3) and $400,000 Unbridled Sidney Stakes. First post is at 10:30 AM and the Oaks goes off at 5:51 PM.

The horse racing video wall at Breakers Sports Grille in Ollie’s Plaza on West Broad Street (Henrico) is perfect for catching all the Derby Day action.

Kentucky Derby post time is 6:57 PM. Advance Derby wagering is available all day and evening on Friday, then Saturday up until post time.          

Study: Virginia Thoroughbred Certified Residency Program Has Major Economic Impact

The following was written by Nick Hahn and appeared in The Racing Biz on May 1.

Virginia’s Certified Residency Program has generated nearly six dollars of economic impact for every dollar invested, according to a new study. The program, which provides incentives for horse owners to stable their young horses in Virginia, has paid out $14.6 million in bonuses over six years, returning $86.2 million in value.

That number includes over $54 million in direct economic impact and supports 825 jobs, the study says.

The study, blandly entitled “Economic Impact: Virginia-Certified Residency Program for Thoroughbred Horses,” was prepared by Chmura Economics & Analytics and reviewed the impacts of the program created after Colonial Downs became dormant a decade ago.  Racing returned to Colonial Downs in 2019 after the track was sold.

“What the study does is verify what our members have been telling us about the program,” said Debbie Easter, Executive Director of Virginia Thoroughbred Association, which is part of the Virginia Equine Alliance, which initialized the review.  “It has allowed them to grow their business, hire employees and make improvements to the farms.”

The incentive program benefits hundreds of Virginia horse farms that receive income from horse owners outside Virginia. It requires a horse to  maintain a minimum six-month continuous residency in Virginia prior to the beginning of its three-year-old year.  Many participants in the program stay longer.

“I think I would have been bankrupt or out of business if the program hadn’t been developed.  I have never struggled like that before,” said Diana McClure, who credits the program for more than doubling her horse population from 20 to 50 horses at her DMC Stable in Berryville, Virginia.  “I didn’t realize how big an effect the closing of Colonial Downs was.  Nobody had any reason to send us any horses.  I’m not exaggerating.” 

McClure recalls a large meeting in Middleburg among the leaders of horsemen’s groups and farm owners to discuss what to do when the concept came up. Delaware had already developed a similar program Maryland and West Virginia, neighboring states to Virginia with year-round racing, had incentivized state-programs.  When the idea surfaced, it quickly gained momentum.

“It has saved the infrastructure that we’ve also been hearing from [such as] blacksmiths, veterinarians, feed suppliers, that serves our members,” added Easter.  “You can’t grow business without that infrastructure.”

Through 2023 over 5,000 horses had participated in the program since its launch in 2017. That alone supports 825 jobs in Virginia, part of the over 5,000 jobs that Virginia horse racing employs.  

Average daily spending per horse rose from an average $35 a day in 2017 to $52.50 a day in 2023.  The program hasn’t just preserved Virginia’s thoroughbred industry, it has made it stronger and more resilient.

“We had a cycle during the year that had a gap between breaking horses and the meet at Colonial Downs where we were like squirrels gathering nuts,” explained McClure about earlier years.  “The certified program filled that gap.  We never kept such a consistent program until the certified program was developed.”

The bonus program allows horse “developers” – the owner at the time of the horse’s first race — to receive a 25% bonus which the horse wins open races throughout the Mid-Atlantic and a 10% bonus on wins in state-restricted races.   Though the program has been fine-tuned over the years, it has, pardon the pun, stabilized hundreds of thoroughbred farms in Virginia both large and small.

Madison Meyers and her husband Kieran Norris started breaking and training thoroughbreds at the Middleburg training center when the program was started. Grateful Bred was a horse that was sent to their stable, Ballyerin Racing, LLC, in the first year of the program by then-owner Gordon “Gordie” Keys. Grateful Bred lists the 2021 Meadow Stable Stakes at Colonial Downs and Marland Million Turf Sprint among his wins and is now owned by Ballyerin Racing after Keys passed away in 2023.

“It’s been huge for us,” said Madison Meyers of the program. “My phone started ringing off the hook.” 

She added, “It’s a great add-on for any horse from any state to race in the Mid-Atlantic. There are different ways to get certified, from weaning to yearling from breaking to training. It’s a big add-on for horses going to sale.”

When the couple kicked off their business in 2017 in Middleburg, they had 20 horses under their stable roof. Now they have 60 and could get more. 

The total economic impact includes both the $54 million in direct impact and indirect impacts — money used for such things as maintaining fences or purchasing office supplies – of $19.2 million. Induced impacts – economic activity generated when workers spend their money at retail stores, restaurants, etc. – was $12.5 million.

All of that supports rural economies and allows horse farms to thrive all year.

“For a state that doesn’t have year-round racing, we have businesses that have year-round programs,” added Easter.

Secretariat Dedication Ceremony Attracts Hundreds of Appreciative Fans

March 30 was a monumental day for Ashland, Virginia and for horse racing from near and far! The town has proclaimed it “Secretariat Day” to celebrate the birthday of the legendary Triple Crown champion and to hold the long-awaited dedication ceremony for the stunning bronze statue “Secretariat Racing Into History” by sculptor Jocelyn Russell.

A formal dedication and ribbon-cutting took place at the Reynolds Family Plaza at Randolph-Macon College in downtown Ashland. This was the first and only monument of Secretariat in Virginia, his birth state. He was born on March 30, 1970 at Meadow Stable, which was founded by Christopher Chenery, who grew up in Ashland.

At 21 feet long and 11.5 feet tall, the monument depicts a larger-than-life Secretariat at a full run, ridden by jockey Ron Turcotte. The saddlecloth shows the number two for Secretariat’s post position in the 1973 Belmont, his most memorable race. The 3,800-pound artwork garnered national publicity last summer during its 5,000-mile tour celebrating the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown. The Secretariat For Virginia Committee with the non-profit Ashland Museum raised the funds for the project.

“Secretariat Racing Into History represents my family history coming full circle, in more ways than one,” said Kate Chenery Tweedy, chair of SECVA. “Like my grandfather Chris Chenery and my mother Penny overcoming their challenges with Meadow Stable, our team displayed an unwavering determination to get the job done. We are extremely grateful for such a rewarding collaboration with the Ashland community, the Commonwealth of Virginia, generous donors, and loyal fans from near and far. This glorious monument will stand as an emblem of excellence and inspiration that honors a matchless legacy.”

As a tribute to Secretariat’s Virginia roots and his still-unbroken track records in the 1973 Triple Crown, the majestic sculpture will be standing on a base containing portions of sand from the original training track at Meadow Stable and from the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

Here are additional pictures from Big Red’s celebration Ashland:

Wayne Dementi, publisher of Secretariat’s Meadow, welcomed statue donors to a luncheon before the ribbon cutting.
 Members of the Second Zion Baptist Church Gospel Choir sing “Oh Happy Day”, a song featured in the Secretariat movie.
Virginia Racing Commission Chair Stephanie Nixon, who owns Ashland-based Horseshoe Hill Farm, was all smiles at the dedication ceremony.
Kate Chenery Tweedy posed for countless pictures after the ribbon cutting.
Jocelyn Russell’s magnificent bronze attracted hundreds of picture takers.
Memories from an era of greatness.
Sculptor Jocelyn Russell’s journey of creating the Secretariat bronze came to a perfect conclusion on March 30th.
Aidan Turnage-Barney of the Virginia Equine Alliance promoted upcoming racing events to festival attendees.
Leeanne Meadows Ladin, co-author of Secretariat’s Meadow, is a key part of the Secretariat for Virginia team.

Enriched Colonial Downs Meet Highlights Spectacular Summer Steeplechase Season

The following was written by Tod Marks and appeared on his social media channels.

In a blockbuster announcement, the National Steeplechase Association has released details of powerhouse jump racing programs at the flat tracks this summer that includes 19 races worth $950,000 at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., and four races at Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York: the A.P. Smithwick and Jonathan Sheppard, both Grade 1s with a $150,000 purse, and two $75,000 novice stakes, the Jonathan Kiser and Michael G. Walsh.

Additionally, NYRA will showcase the $150,000 Beverly R. Steinman handicap hurdle stakes, named after the longtime owner who has successfully straddled both the steeplechase and flat racing worlds with stars such as Dark Equation, who captured the 2008 New York Turf Writers Cup (G1), and Colstar, a filly who won more than $1 million on the flat. The Steinman will be contested at 2 ⅜ miles on Sunday June 9 at the Spa, the day after Belmont Stakes, which is being run at Saratoga for the first time while Belmont Park is reconstructed from the ground up.

NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo pictured with Peggy Steinman.

“Peggy Steinman has represented the National Steeplechase Association at the highest level for decades, particularly at Saratoga, where her presence alone, sitting in her prominent finish-line box, has reminded people in the industry and especially at the New York Racing Association that the traditions of steeplechasing run deep,” said Bill Gallo, the NSA’s Director of Racing. “This is a fitting and wonderful tribute to a very special person on an historic weekend in Saratoga. She is thrilled with the honor and looking forward to the Belmont at Saratoga Festival.”

NYRA also reaffirmed its commitment to host the $150,000 Lonesome Glory (G1) and $75,000 William Entenmann novice stakes at the Belmont at Aqueduct meet on Thursday Sept. 19, a week after the Friday Sept. 13 opening day.

The summer calendar, which begins July 11 and ends Sept. 6, offers steeplechasing the opportunity to broaden its appeal to a wider fan base, especially at Saratoga, the highest profile race meet in the U.S.

NYRA races are broadcast live on Fox2 TV, with replays available on NYRA website, https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/replays. Fans can watch the races from Colonial Downs on their simulcast signal or via live stream from the NSA web site, www.nationalsteeplechase.com.

Colonial Downs will offer wagering on steeplechase races for the first time in years this summer. The races previously were held off the card — before the first pari-muuel flat race began — on Fridays.

All races will be part of the flat-racing cards at Colonial on Thursdays (the races were previously run on Fridays) and at Saratoga on Wednesdays. At both meets, the jump races will be at the beginning of the day. The races at Colonial will go off as the first, second, and third on the program, with a 1:30 p.m. first post. At Saratoga post time is 1:10 p.m.

Highlighting the action at Colonial are a pair of $100,000 filly and mare stakes, the Randolph D. Rouse and Life’s Illusion. Most of the races at Colonial Downs have been carded as open maiden special weights hurdles (one of which is restricted to four-year-olds), and all have gotten a purse bump to $50,000. There are also two $55,000 allowance contests for non-winners of two, and several ratings handicaps and starter events worth $30,000 to $35,000. Colonial is bringing back another popular event, a $50,000 flat race for horses who competed but didn’t win a jump race at the track during the meet. It’ll take place on the track’s closing Friday, Sept. 6.

The addition of the Beverly R. Steinman stakes gives the NSA a total of eight Grade 1s on the 2024 schedule. In January, the Virginia Gold Cup Association revealed plans for a new Grade 1 fixture, the Commonwealth Cup, at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va., on May 4. Before that, the Carolina Cup Association announced it would bring back after an eight-year hiatus the Colonial Cup at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., on Nov. 17.

Full major track schedule:

Belmont at Saratoga

• June 9, Beverly R. Steinman (G1)

Colonial

• July 11, Open maiden, filly & mare maiden, allowance

• July 18, Open maiden, 110, and 115 ratings handicap

• Aug. 01, Open maiden, maiden starter, and allowance

• Aug. 08, Open maiden, 115 ratings handicap, and Randolph D.Rouse Memorial filly & mare stakes

• Aug. 22, Open maiden, four-year-old maiden, maiden starter

• Sept. 05, Open maiden, 110 ratings, Life’s Illusion filly & mare stakes

• Sept. 06, Flat race for jumpers who started at the meet but didn’t win

Saratoga

• July 17, A.P. Smithwick Memorial (G1)

• July 31, Jonathan Kiser Memorial novice stakes

• Aug. 14, Jonathan Sheppard Memorial (G1)

• Aug. 28, Michael G. Walsh Memorial novice stakes

Belmont at Aqueduct

• Sept. 19, William Entenmann Memorial novice stakes, Lonesome Glory (G1)

2024 NSA Grade 1s

May 04, $150,000 Commonwealth Cup, 2 ⅛ miles, Virginia Gold Cup Races

May 11, $200,000 Calvin Houghland Memorial Iroquois, 3 miles, Iroquois

June 09, $150,000 Beverly R. Steinman, 2 ⅜ miles, Saratoga

July 17, $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial, 2 ⅜ miles, Saratoga

Aug. 14, $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard Memorial, 2 ⅜ miles, Saratoga

Sept. 19, $150,000 Lonesome Glory, 2 ½ miles, Belmont at Aqueduct

Oct. 19, $250,000 Grand National, 2 ⅝ miles, Far Hills

Nov. 17, $150,000 Colonial Cup, 2 ⅝ miles, Colonial Cup

Note: The Iroquois and Grand National are weight-for-age races. The other Grade 1s are handicaps.

Colonial Downs Conducts Annual Controlled Burn of Secretariat Turf Course on March 18

The annual controlled burn of the Secretariat Turf Course at Colonial Downs took place Monday March 18 at the New Kent track. The grass oval is set ablaze at this time every year to quickly and efficiently remove dead cover off the surface’s top player. The burn also drives nutrients deeper into the ground to provide a green, lush and safe racing surface in time for the summer racing which begins July 11 and continues through September 7.

The 2024 burn was completed in a record time of just over one hour. The burn was conducted under the supervision of Colonial’s Senior Director of Racing Operations Frank Hopf, new Director of Track Operations Leif Dickinson and of course, New Kent Fire & Rescue.

The 9-week summer thoroughbred season will feature daily average purses in the $700,000 range along with racing Thursdays and Saturdays at 1:30 PM and Fridays at 4:30 PM. Photos of the controlled follow (overhead photos provided by Mitchell Bradley)

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← Spring Point-to-Point Season Continues with the Warrenton Hunt; Piedmont PTP Up Next

Secretariat Monument Groundbreaking Takes Place in Ashland on Feb. 7

Virginia horse racing fans got to celebrate a milestone event Wednesday February 7 as a ceremonial groundbreaking for the magnificent bronze Secretariat “Racing into History’ monument took place in Ashland on the outer edge of the Randolph Macon College campus. The ceremony took place under gorgeous sunny skies, and a large, appreciative crowd was on hand to celebrate Virginia’s greatest athlete — who also happens to be a hometown hero. Groundbreaking speakers included Kate Tweedy (daughter of Secretariat owner Penny Chenery Tweedy), Jocelyn Russell (sculptor of the Secretariat statue), Steve Trivett (Mayor of​ Ashland) and Ann Martin (President of the Ashland Museum). 

A ceremonial groundbreaking took place February 7 in Ashland where the magnificent Secretariat statue will be permanently based.

A formal statue dedication will take place on Saturday March 30 during Secretariat’s birthday celebration in Ashland. The grand event will feature vendors, food trucks, a choir, guest speakers, photo opportunities and a free showing of the movie Secretariat at the Ashland Theatre among other activities. 

The Secretariat statue traveled to a handful of tracks in 2023 including Shenandoah Downs and Colonial Downs in Virginia.

The Town of Ashland accepted the monument the evening prior where it took formal ownership of Big Red. Secretariat will be based on land at the college that has been leased to the Town. The small park — located the intersection of England Street & Railroad Avenue — will formally be named the Reynolds Family Plaza at Randolph Macon College.

Kate Tweedy, who lives in downtown Ashland, proudly talked about her family ties to the great Secretariat.

“It was a wonderful ceremony and a very moving moment for me,” noted Tweedy. “It was the culmination of a long project and a lot of good work. Last night was a crowning achievement.”

“My grandfather began to fulfill his dream to breed and race good horses here in Virginia in 1936 and it took a long time before the greatest horse came around,” she continued. “My mom took over when he became ill and served as the steward of Secretariat. I can only imagine what Granddad and Mom would think about this project. I just know that they would be overwhelmingly proud and thrilled about today, and about what it will look like at the dedication ceremony. 

At the end of her remarks, Tweedy announced that a sandy area underneath the statue will include sand mixed in from track surface materials at all three Triple Crown host tracks — Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont — in addition to sand from The Meadow, Big Red’s birthplace in Doswell. Sculptor Jocelyn Russell then took a pail of sand from The Meadow and spread it in with an existing sand mixture in front of the stage that was used for the ceremonial groundbreaking.    

Sculptor Jocelyn Ruussell (right) — who is based in the state of Washington — and friend Robin Hutton (left) were at the groundbreaking and will return for the March 30 dedication.

Russell, who was emotional in discussing the scope of the sculpting process and the efforts from many that went into it, sent a blanket thank you to everyone involved and promised a longer speech at the dedication. 

Jeannie Welliver, Project Manager for Secretariat’s permanent home base in Ashland, is all smiles at the groundbreaking.

Mayor Trivett referenced what a big event this is for Ashland and that the Town was breaking ground in a special way. “This is not only the first monument of Secretariat in Hanover County, or the first monument of Secretariat in Central Virginia, but the first monument of Secretariat in the state of Virginia! We are extremely proud to continue Ashland’s longstanding ties with Chenery family and on March 30th, this park will be the center of the ‘Center of the Universe’.” 

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Stallion True Valour Moves To Virginia

The following appeared in The Racing Biz

Larry Johnson’s Legacy Farm will for the first time stand his graded stakes winner True Valour (Ire) for 2024, as well as his homebred graded stakes winner Street Magician 

These decisions are designed to take advantage of the lucrative opportunities for Virginia state-sired horses in which not only are they eligible for the State-bred and State-certified stakes and overnight race bonuses offered at Colonial Downs, but also bonuses of 25% for wins at any track in the Midatlantic!

A breeder can foal a Virginia-sired horse anywhere (and be eligible for the foaling state’s bonus program) and still be eligible for these Virginia-focused bonuses without any residency or other requirements.

2024 marks True Valour’s second year at stud.  He is a multiple graded stakes  winner at several distances against the best in the country. In his last start he raced Breeders’ Cup winner Golden Pal to a head bob. (Golden Pal covered 290 mares at $30,000 in 2023).  As his trainer Graham Motion has said, True Valour had more speed than any horse he had ever trained.  At $2,000, True Valour offers significant value. 

Street Magician will resume his successful stallion career that boasts more than $10 million in progeny earnings, an ample number of stakes winners, along with several state-bred champions. He will stand for no fee to approved mares.

Both stallions will participate in the Virginia Thoroughbred Association’s stallion season auction, which takes place February 14. In addition, they will be eligible for viewing at an open house at Legacy Farm scheduled for January 27 and 28 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.